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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Wow! (03/11/10)

TITLE: Transcendence
By Carol Slider


When night creeps o’er the spired town
The old man takes the candles down.
He lights the tapers, sharpens pen,
Pours ink into the well again,
Puts on a tattered dressing gown.

The room is bare, the fire cold;
The chamber walls are gray with mold.
And yet he does not see the room—
Its poverty, its sterile gloom,
Its stacks of folios unsold.

Sometimes he hums, sometimes he sings,
Sometimes across the room he springs
To pound out half-tuned chords upon
The only instrument he owns:
A clavier with broken strings.

He has a well-trained, fine-tuned ear,
And yet he does not seem to hear
Those jarring chords so out of tune
They might well make the tone-deaf swoon!
But mark his face—Is that a tear?

Back to the table, to his pen,
The old man bends to write again.
Lines, notes and symbols fill the page...
Is he possessed by some strange rage?
Or does he see the heavens rend?

Can he, a mortal, look just there
Near waning fire and well-worn chair
And hear and see something beyond?
One chord, perhaps, of ancient song
That clothed with light a world once bare?

One glimpse, perhaps, is all he needs.
On fertile soil one tiny seed
Sprouts and takes root upon that night—
And like a tree of epic height,
Becomes a mighty symphony.


Time steals the glories of the town;
War tears its mighty spires down.
All the composer knew is changed,
Destroyed, restored, or rearranged,
While he lies sleeping ‘neath the ground.

Yet what he wrote remains and thrives—
Performed and copied and transcribed.
And sometimes one who plays or hears
Pauses a moment, glimpsing there
That transcendence gave it life.


The room is plain and cold and square,
Utilitarian, and bare,
With cinder block walls, concrete floors,
Glazed-over windows, metal doors,
And vents that blow out stale, chill air.

Small children file into the room;
Some push, and shove, and elbow, too.
They crowd together on the floor
Cross-legged, to make room for more:
Grades three and four; grades one and two.

An orchestra has come, and brings
Brass and woodwinds, percussion, strings.
A common thing; hardly unique;
Two schools today, four more next week—
But to small ears, an unknown thing.

Some wiggle, whisper, fall asleep;
Some clap or tap to keep the beat.
But one small boy is very still
And why he is, he cannot tell—
His thoughts are curious, strange, and deep.

He’s never heard these sounds before
And yet, and yet, the concrete floor
The walls, the ceiling, the kids that shove—
They all seem somehow to dissolve
And melt into the music’s core.

He cannot put it into words
But hears what the composer heard.
And understands it? Well, a bit.
Enough that he will not forget.
Someday it will not seem absurd.

But that is someday; and just now
He looks up and whispers, “Wow...”

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This article has been read 746 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jackie Wilson03/18/10
Wow! Wow! Wow! I love this! Absolutely wonderful, masterful writing. Loved it.
Catrina Bradley 03/21/10
Bravo! I have chills - the setting and mood in the first reminded me of Poe, and the revelation and wonder in the second was heart-lifting affirmation for any artist. The rhyme, the meter - spot on. Great job!
Beth LaBuff 03/21/10
I'll repeat the "Wow!" too! This is absolutely beautiful (the story, the meter, the poetic form). I can't believe this is your first poem! What talent! Wow!
Allison Egley 03/21/10
Wow. Very, very good for your first poem in the challenge! I'd love to know which composer inspired this, if it was a specific one.
Lori Othouse 03/21/10
This is awesome!! The story, the meter, everything! It transitioned so well from one time period to the next, too. Excellent!
Joan Campbell03/22/10
This is beautiful. I love the way you tie it together through the ages. Well done on your 1st poem!
Gregory Kane03/22/10
Very impressive. My sense of rhythm is so dreadful I don't dare turn my had to poetry. But this is a great venture into new fields.
My one quibble would be that I felt the final section with the school kids was a bit laboured. But the ending was excellent
Eliza Evans 03/22/10
YAY, poetry! :)

And WOW on this one, Carol!
You look like a professional! :)

This has such a sweeping, hushed and grand feel to it.

Beautiful. Reverent. Memorable.

I am extremely impressed and blessed by your ahem first poem.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/22/10
Wow...should have know the musician also has a poet's soul. This is awesome.
william price03/22/10
Way excellent. What I like the best were the last lines of each stanza. Each one could have had a sela after them. Very impressed. God bless.
Ann Grover03/22/10
Applause! Wow! This is beautiful.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/22/10
This is quite impressive.
Rachel Phelps03/23/10
Wonderful! I commend your bravery in trying something new, and applaud your obvious talent.
Beth LaBuff 03/25/10
Carol, I just wanted you to know this is my favorite for the week. I think this is flawless. The first time I read it, I thought, "I want to write like that!" It truly is a masterpiece.
Eliza Evans 03/28/10
100% of what Beth said...(of course I want to write like Beth, too!:)
I love this poem! I wouldn't have been a bit surprised to see it way up top.
A realy lovely tribute, Carol. Well done.